Thanksgiving exists in its current form as an opportunity to be reminded of the things we are grateful for – good family and friends, delicious food to eat aplenty, a safe and warm home to enjoy the holiday in – but it can also be a holiday of excess; one where we fill our plates and our stomachs and focus on indulgence. Here are a few ways to have a more sustainable thanksgiving dinner:
Décor – If you’re hosting a dinner and need to decorate, consider repurposing items from the backyard like flowers or leaves (depending on where you are located). Sand from the local beach in a reusable glass jar with a tea light can make for a warm centerpiece. Large colorful leaves in a vase can be a fun departure from cut, purchased flowers, which are often flown in from countries far away. If you’ll be using pumpkins as decoration, be sure to hollow out the seeds to roast instead of tossing them when done.
Treats – If you’ll be purchasing a dessert to bring to a dinner, try to avoid ones wrapped in plastic. Instead, opt for paper bakery boxes or even consider trying a local bakery for your holiday sweets. Or bake them from scratch yourself!
Grocery Shopping – Before you head to the grocery store, be sure to pack your reusable bags; one of the easiest ways to be mindful when you shop. Also, try menu planning in advance with items that reuse many of the same ingredients to avoid waste. Instead of going to the supermarket, try shopping at your local farmer’s market first. Shopping local minimizes the footprint of the foods that make it to your table and also ensures that your food is both seasonal and at the peak of flavor. You can find your local farmer’s market here. When making purchases, also consider what items can be purchased in bulk and what can be frozen for multiple uses.
Cooking – When planning your menu, try to consider items that will convert into tasty second dishes with the leftovers. This will help avoid waste and keep your family from being bored of the same turkey sandwich day after day. We have turned to Epicurious for endless ideas. Don’t forget to save all your celery, carrot, and other produce stubs to turn into a hearty soup. The same goes for the carcass or bones of any animal protein you might serve. These can be frozen and turned into stock when you’re ready to get back in the kitchen.
Compost and Recycle – Beyond cooking scraps, consider giving composting a try. Pumpkins, squash, and gourds compost really well. Avoid using plastic plates or silverware and be prepared with reusable, sustainable containers to package leftovers for guests. These Stasher reusable zip top baggies are a favorite. And if you have a big crowd and want to avoid dishwashing, check out Repurpose compostable items (please hyperlink to http://www.repurposecompostables.com/) for a feel good experience.
Turkey– There are many things to consider when purchasing a turkey for your Thanksgiving dinner that span environmental, ethicalal, historical, and personal considerations. To make an informed decision, we recommend reading up on what the impact of turkeys is on the holiday and what some alternatives might be. One good starting point is this article from the Washington Post.
Energy – Lastly, consider dining alfresco or utilizing environmentally friendly candles. Consider the 100-Mile Thanksgiving challenge when making purchases and menu decisions for this holiday.
What ways have you made your Thanksgiving more sustainable? Share them with us @StarfishMarta.
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